Over the years, I have written almost 350 posts about Travel Hacking in one form or another. I’ve tried to make it easy to understand but I understand that it’s a daunting task to try to find all the relevant information you might need to understand whether this is something they want to undertake or not.
The site has gone through 3-4 design updates in an effort to keep things fresh, but more importantly, in an effort to try to make things easier to find for readers. While there is a search feature to the site, oftentimes, it’s difficult to even know what to search for.
Quite a few people have reached out to me in the past few weeks, both in-person and through the contact form, and the most common questions is around where to begin.
Rather than point you to the search functionality of the site, I thought it might be prudent to create a new series that puts the resources at your fingertips. I’m likely to cover most of the topics at a high level with links out to other pertinent articles I have written around the subject but I’ll give you enough of a taste that you’ll know whether you want to sit down for a meal.
Over the course of the next month or so (no promises … I have a demanding job), I will endeavour to layout Travel Hacking in an easy and concise series that will cover the following topics:
|The Benefits of Travel Hacking|
|Credit Cards – Which Card and Why|
|Churning Credit Cards|
|US Credit Cards (ITIN)|
|Using Your Points|
|Alternatives to DIY|
|Understanding the Power of Partners|
|Weighing Convenience vs Cost|
|How to Avoid High Taxes and Charges|
|How to Travel Better|
|Why You Need Status|
|Understanding Your Rights|
|Beyond Travel – Financial Freedom|
Each series post will start with the table above as a Table of Contents so you can jump around as you see fit. My end goal is to give you a helping hand in understanding this crazy world we play in. Hopefully, you’ll learn a thing or two along the way.
That said, let’s jump in.
The Benefits of Travel Hacking
As someone that has worked in Business Development for quite a few years, you meet a lot of new people from different walks of life, each with varied interests. Your goal is to build relationships and trust in an effort to win your company business.
There are many ways that you can begin a conversation but after the niceties of your name and what you do, you’re sometimes left with a daunting void of silence that you need to fill. I’ve found that one thing that almost all people like to talk about is … travel.
Whether they just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa to pet a cheetah, or Rio de Janeiro to see Big J, or maybe from ringing in the New Year at the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, everyone loves sharing the memories they have from travel.
I have a theory that travel is one of the most enriching things you can do to understand the world around you. Travel Hacking puts that right at your fingertips.
The Cost (Savings) of Travel
There are quite a few numbers floating around when you ask the question “what does an average vacation cost?” but it’s around $5,000 USD for a family of four. At the time of this article, that would be around $6,500 CAD. That’s quite a bit of money for most, which is why it’s no wonder why people don’t travel more. They simply can’t afford it.
Let’s imagine you saved that $6,500 for your vacation but then I magically took away the cost of your flights and accommodations. What could you do with that extra money?
You could eat at the finest restaurants, book a private tour for just your family, go deep-sea fishing, take that helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon you’ve had on your bucket list. At the very least, it would mean that you could take another vacation that same year. The possibilities are endless.
When we went to Australia at the end of 2017, we decided to splurge on GREAT seats for the New Year’s Eve festivities and paid $350 CAD per person. In almost every circumstance, I would have balked at spending that much money for 4-5 hours of entertainment but because we basically spent nothing on travel, the cash outlay didn’t hurt nearly as much.
Travel Hacking gives you options and allows you to have experiences that you might not have been able to afford otherwise.
I take pride in knowing that the term “once-in-a-lifetime trip” doesn’t apply anymore. It’s more like “twenty-five-times-in-a-lifetime trip” with the help of Travel Hacking.
Throughout my years, I have started and stopped many a project or “hobby”, but none have piqued my interest as much as Travel Hacking. A lot of it centres around the Asian in me and “getting a great deal” but I’m also fascinated by the economic microcosm that is centred around loyalty.
In addition to the savings, through Travel Hacking, you learn a ton of skills that you can use throughout your career including:
- Fiscal responsibility – through learning about and signing up for credit cards and credit products, you get a first-hand understanding of how these financial instruments work and how you can leverage them responsibly.
- Cost/benefit analysis – when you work so hard to earn the points in your account, you learn how to use them in the most advantageous way possible. You learn to weigh your options and decide your best course of action on how to use your points.
- Legal acumen – let’s face it, you read a lot of terms and conditions when you dive deep into this world. Learning how terms and conditions work helps you to understand where there are weaknesses in systems. You can leverage that knowledge to get even more bang for your buck.
- Research acumen – if you want to be great at Travel Hacking, you’ll need to learn how to research things. Finding sources of information on the things you are interested in is an important skill you will develop naturally through your natural curiosity about the subject at hand.
- Risk Mitigation – when you get really skilled and start experimenting with Manufactured Spend, you’ll start to understand what your risk appetite is. The term “no pain, no gain” rings true here. You’ll have to be willing to take a bit of a monetary hit to prove out some theories but in the end, it’s likely well worth it.
Finding Your Tribe
I’ve been at this for close to 20 years and every time I meet up with someone that is deep in the weeds with this stuff like I am, there’s a certain kinship that you naturally have. It’s a unique feeling knowing that there are other weirdos out there that share your passion. I did my best to help bring that community together through things like PointsU and I hope the Canadian Travel Hacking community is further along for it.
I expect to be able to do that again in the short term but it likely won’t be with PointsU, but don’t fret, there are brighter days ahead!
In the next section, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of which cards are best suited for your particular needs and why. I’ll teach you about all the traps to watch out for and where you can make hay when it comes to credit card sign-up bonuses.
Stay with me throughout this series. It’s going to be a bit of a long journey but it should give you about 90% of what you need to be a great Travel Hacker. The remaining 10% developed through networks and friendships, something I hope to be able to provide you as well.